Wednesday, August 5, 2020

A fan’s guide to how worried you should be after four days

It’s the postseason. Time to worry.

After all, that’s half the fun during this time of year. And by “fun” I mean that you spend days or weeks or months curled up in a little ball with your eyes shut tight while you make little squeaky whimpering noises. So, not fun at all, I guess.

But postseason misery comes in different forms, and not all worry is created equal. There’s the general sense of low-level trepidation when things are going reasonably well and you’re trying to figure out what the hockey gods are setting you up for. There are zones in the middle, where the glass is half full right before you throw it through your TV screen. And then there’s the full-on existential dread, where things are awful and you’re just trying to figure out how they’ll get worse, and you question why you ever decided to like this team and this sport in the first place.

We’ve all been there. But it’s important to pace yourself and make sure you’re in the right spot. I don’t get to tell you where that is, but I’ve been doing this long enough that I can at least offer up some advice.

Here’s where I’d suggest everyone should be, four whole days into a postseason that’s going to last two more months for some of you, and maybe just a few more hours for others.

Worry level: Low

Fans of all the teams who aren’t here

How are you all enjoying this? Has it been enjoyable? I bet it’s been kind of enjoyable.

The dirty secret of hockey fandom is that having your team miss the playoffs sucks, but watching the playoffs when your team isn’t in them is kind of awesome. You can hate-watch a few teams, bandwagon a couple more if you’re up for it or just work the remote and cheer for overtime. It kind of rules.

Am I speaking from experience? Way too much of it, thanks for asking.

Lightning, Flyers, Avalanche and Golden Knights

That would be the four teams in the round robin who’ve opened with a win. Wins are good. You want to start strong and get a little momentum, and with just three games to play in this mini-tournament, an early win is pretty much mandatory if you want to finish first in the conference and grab the top seed.

Will that top seed matter? Probably not, since you could still end up facing a tougher matchup, but every little bit helps and securing home ice and last change is a little bit. And at least it’s fun to say that it’s the postseason and you’re riding a winning streak that’s lasted almost five months.

New York Islanders

They are who we thought they were, at least so far. In other words, they’re a very well-coached team that won’t blow you away with skill or clog up a highlight reel, but know how to shut down an opponent and turn a game into the kind they want to play. They embarrassed the Penguins with a sweep last year, and now find themselves two-thirds of the way to giving the Panthers the same treatment.

As long as Mathew Barzal can avoid doing any more headers into the boards that briefly gave everyone a heart attack, there hasn’t been much for Islander fans to worry about yet. Take advantage of it while it lasts.

New York Rangers

Good job, good effort. Enjoy a few weeks of Alexis Lafreniere highlights.

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